With our access to real-time traveler audiences and unmatched visibility into global travel demand, we’re in a unique position to share the current travel trends at the forefront of marketers’ minds. In this blog series, we’ll take a look at the data to aid travel marketers in their assessment of this worldwide event. They can use these trends to inform their marketing strategies during this period, as the industry stabilizes.
These insights are based on data collected through July 11, 2020. We will be reviewing our data on a regular basis to provide a view of trends and patterns in consumer behavior. Sojern’s insights are based on over 350 million traveler profiles and billions of travel intent signals, however it does not capture one hundred percent of the travel market.
Regions Across the Globe Show an Increase in Hotel Bookings
Last year, 7.3 million Americans traveled to Europe during the months of March, April, May, and June. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, none have crossed the border since March 17, 2020 when travel restrictions were placed. The US and many other countries remain on the list of restricted travelers after the ban was lifted on July 1. As such, Europe, as well as other regions, continue to focus their efforts on bolstering domestic travel. Sojern data reveals that Europe is seeing the strongest growth in domestic hotel bookings, while Asia has a stronger growth in hotel searches. We also see that in Asia Pacific (APAC), the top gainers for hotel bookings were Malaysia, Vietnam, and China. In the Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) region, France, Finland, and Norway showed the most growth.
It’s important to note that while Europe is seeing increased travel demand, it’s coming at a cost. In Greece, for example, there has already been a spike in cases from relaxed European Union international and domestic travel guidelines. Some of the new cases being reported are coming directly from tourists.
Domestic hotel bookings in Latin America (LATAM) grew after several weeks of declining intent in early to mid June, with Mexico being the standout for hotel booking growth. However, many foreigners are not running the risk of traveling to LATAM this summer, though tickets are cheap. BNP Paribas said they expect LATAM’s tourism industry to be the hardest hit out of all the emerging markets, and for longer. Brazil has the second highest number of COVID-19 cases globally behind the US, and countries like Mexico, Chile, and Peru are also seeing mass outbreaks. Because the number of deaths have been increasing in these areas, experts believe they have not hit their peak as most countries in Europe did in early May. COVID-19 has been a great strain on the LATAM hospital systems.
The US and Canada saw several weeks of declining hotel bookings early to mid June, which corresponds to when COVID-19 cases were spiking after the mass re-opening in late May and early June. Notably, these spikes are receiving a lot of media attention. However, after several weeks, the trend turned positive, although growth rates are not as high as in Asia and Europe where COVID-19 cases are more under control. Domestic travel in Canada is showing strong growth with British Columbia and Ontario leading the way for hotel bookings. In the US, more remote areas like Vermont, Maine, and Rhode Island (also areas with low case count and all in the Northeast) are quite popular right now.
Changes in the Booking Lead Times
When we take a look at the lead times for hotel bookings (bookings January 1 – July 11th, 2020 vs. the prior year, indexed to April 5th) Sojern data shows that a significant portion of travel is now being booked for the immediate term (less than two weeks out), which is how a large share of travelers typically booked in a pre-COVID world. However, this is a shift from the patterns we saw in April, when the world was locked down, as all region’s travelers turned into long-term planners (booking for travel three months or more into the future). This is likely because of the level of uncertainty on when travel bans would lift as the pandemic hit all regions of the globe.
The shorter lead time window now could mean a number of things, for example, while people are interested in travel, they are not necessarily ready to risk booking far in advance due to the potential of further lockdowns or travel restrictions being imposed again. It could also mean that travelers are feeling more comfortable to travel immediately with all the policy and safety measures in place, or that travelers are rushing to get their summer trips in. Several states in the US, for example, are reversing restriction lifts as COVID-19 cases soar, totaling over 2.5 million infected. However, even with the rising COVID-19 cases, people are still traveling and shifting back to more immediate travel, especially to those areas with lower case counts.
In several regions across the globe, including EMEA, LATAM, and the US and Canada, we are seeing a spike in hotel searches for the holidays (travel departing in December), but not for bookings quite yet. The holiday season, traditionally one of the busiest times of year for travel, could look a lot different this year, but at least, for the time being, people are showing an interest in traveling for the holidays.
COVID-19 has changed the way hotels do business, but what does that mean for pricing? Discounts, do they work? Is a value ad a better approach to jumpstart sales post-pandemic? In our webinar, hotel industry leaders, April Eskelson, Director of Training and Janel Allen, Sr Director of Sales, at Jacaruso Enterprises Inc, join Sojern’s CSO, Kurt Weinsheimer, to discuss the role of pricing strategies that will help drive demand, followed by a live Q&A with our experts.
Please download the slides here.
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